10 August 2007

Some weeks, it's hard to get excited

As Foot and Mouth rages across Surrey, the Scottish Government opts to allow livestock to be taken to the slaughterhouse. While some are worried, I'm not fussed. Firstly, FMD isn't just a threat when there's an actual outbreak, as in every outbreak there has to be a first case, so any livestock handler worth their salt will be vigilant anyway. Secondly, while it is worth acknowledging that Surrey being a long way away might not necessarily mean that Scotland is safe, it's worth checking out what protection other European countries are taking for their stock. Animal imports from the UK only stopped once the first case was confirmed, and given Surrey's relative proximity to the continent, it's fair to say that France and the Benelux countries are not necessarily any safer than Scotland. Finally, the animals are going to an abattoir! Their number is already up!

The other big story has been the debate over Scottish broadcasting. I do think that politicians are over-reacting to this, for two reasons. Firstly, what do they expect Alex Salmond to think? That the BBC is wonderful and should be preserved at all costs? Of course not. Secondly, do they remember who is in charge of broadcasting, and in charge of the Scottish Parliament's powers? That's right, Westminster. If they don't play ball on this, that's that.

What's interesting is how River City always comes in for a slagging on this issue: it is always held up as the example of why there shouldn't be a Scottish Broadcasting Corporation. Now personally, I've only watched about 90 minutes of River City during its entire life, and most of those have been spent a) trying to decipher Roisin and b) occasionally checking out which guy Scott is sleeping with and, from time to time... well, let's end that sentence there. But consider this: there are enough people who like River City enough that it stays on the air. The BBC didn't produce the soap because it had to; it was more than just a simple box-ticking exercise (though it would have helped to fill the quota of Scottish-made programmes for Scotland). The BBC spotted a niche following the demise of High Road, and took a risk by filling it. If River City were not pulling in the punters, BBC Scotland would have axed it long ago, and replaced it with I dread to think what.

All this debate about how the media should be run in Scotland seems to elide the most important concern: the audience. On the one hand, the media is good at reflecting its audience. Why are there so many shows like Cash in the Attic? Because people watch them. If the audience wants more home-grown programming, as opposed to programming from elsewhere in the English-speaking world (whether London, the USA or Australia), then they will vote with their remote controls. But if Scottish-made programming is made as a box-ticking exercise to make Scottish programmes for the sake of it, then no one will watch. The key question has to be: what do viewers want? Has anyone asked that yet?

So the top two discussions this week have been whether or not animals might catch a nsty virus just a couple of hours before they get killed anyway (that thought is actually making me hungry - is there something wrong with me?), and a debate on how TV is run conducted entirely in the political sphere, and forgetting that while Westminster might have powers over broadcasting, viewers and listeners can veto anything that results from those powers with our mighty off-switch. No wonder the laptop has been left alone this week.

1 comment:

julie said...

I do wish they'd change the theme tune of River City; I always think of big grey puddles and grey clouds and grey clothes and ..well grey everything. How I wish for the seventies when a theme tune was a theme tune; The A Team, Perry Mason, Cagney and Lacey, Dallas and even Murder She Wrote..
Drat , I've just revealed all the crap I watch of an afternoon. That's what happens when you're a carer..